Kickstarting your Tuesday night meditation practice into a regular event involves commitment. Here’s two simple ways:
1) Offer to pick up another Tuesday nights at a designated time and place. This same time, same place consciousness gets you to your Sands Zendo sit, engage with others and offers the opportunity to be of service.
If you are able to pick up or if you require a ride, let us know where you’re coming from and, if you’re driving, how many sitters you have room for and we’ll arrange the initial connections.
2) Step into a role on the Zendo team. Practice from the inside out by learning form while serving others and supporting Zenwest’s reach out to the greater community. Minimal requirement for Tuesday sits is your associateship with Zenwest.
I was first exposed to Zen Buddhism as a 16 year old, living on Musqueam land (Vancouver). I was living a very chaotic life — generally pretty miserable, having felt from childhood that I was fundamentally broken and fundamentally bad, and having had since childhood periodic meltdowns and feelings of wanting to die. Like many teenagers I expressed that pain and confusion through alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, occasionally trading sex for cigarettes or drinks, compulsively lying, getting into fights in mosh pits, and repetitively digging into my skin until I bled. My friend’s mother, trying to help, loaned me her copy of “The Three Pillars of Zen” by Roshi Philip Kapleau. I read it, didn’t understand any of it, and don’t remember having any kind of illuminating moment or even remember any particular section of the book that really hit home. Somehow there was something that stuck and wouldn’t let go. For the next 20 years I tried, on and off, to do zazen on my own. It was always both physically and mentally painful, and periodically I would take Buddhist books out of the library for instruction to try to figure out what I was doing wrong that made it hurt so much. It did not occur to me that it was my life that was making it painful. It wasn’t until I met AnShin Claude Thomas in 2006, who instructed me to stop sitting on my own and start practicing with a teacher and a community, that I came to Zenwest and found a way to practice and to live my life without so much pain.
What, in terms of life challenges, brought you to the practice of meditation?
My mind and body had never been safe places for me and I came to resent being alive and the feeling that the world was an unjust, unfair place. Evidence of that was all around me, through constant self-created dramas as well as external difficult experiences such as friends going to prison, friends dying through suicide or overdose or accident or murder, and suffering from poverty while I was living on welfare and eating out of garbage cans. I hated myself but even while trying to obliterate my life through alcohol and drugs and putting myself in violent or dangerous situations there was part of me that wanted to find healing and to be happy. To do this I needed a place of safety both externally and internally — to find refuge. For many years I did not try to find other people to sit with or to look for a teacher, as I felt too broken to be around people in any kind of way other than angry activism. I felt comfortable arguing with people, writing angry letters, chaining myself to things, taking over public spaces, damaging government and corporate property, stealing, and making threats, but could not stand to sit in silence with anyone or connect in a genuine way. Eventually it became obvious that even though the way I was living was not focused on self-harm like before, it was still harmful and was hurting the people around me. The dissatisfaction with how I was approaching political work is what brought me to Zenwest. I wanted to be a better activist and a better human being, and the two seemed intrinsically related.
Why do you continue?
To better be able to transform my own and our collective suffering so we stop hurting ourselves, each other, and the world. Also, the people in this community are real gems.
What do you find, at this time, is your greatest challenge in walking the way?
I can get very caught up with how much pain we cause through our greed, anger, and delusion. Sometimes it seems like we are living in hell with what we do to other beings and the earth, and I get caught up in resisting being alive and stuck in not wanting to be here. Also, I can be lazy and petulant, not wanting to do the work involved in living a good life and insisting on having everything go my way and being in charge of everything – a sure recipe for disaster. I can tend to take refuge in the wrong things so it helps me a lot to have a practice with such clear instruction around taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and the structure of the sila (precepts) as an ethical guidepost.
If you could share one bit of practical advice about sitting zazen what would it be?
If it’s painful, be gentle, be patient, soften, and find the humour. Being human is hard, crazy, beautiful. We are all just bumbling along. The pain is not personal or evidence of failure.
Finally, in three words can you express what Buddha, Dharma, Sangha means for you?
Appreciate your life.
Spiritually Speaking Blog
From time to time, Reverend Soshin contributes to the “Spiritually Speaking” blog on the Times Colonist site. Check out this example: Of Rainbows and Racism
I have been listening to your podcasts for the last 2 years. I’m a 39 year old white female living in Cape Town, South Africa.
In one of your recent podcasts you mentioned that you have someone listening to the podcast living in Mauritius so I thought I’d like to write to you and thank you for touching my life here in sunny South Africa.
I would like to thank you for making the podcasts available. Thank you Eshu for your honesty and openness with which you approach your talks.
You have been so instrumental in my day to day activities, in the way I approach things, in all the wisdom that you offer with every podcast.
You have been so ingrained in my life that I even refer to you, I normally tell my partner “you will not believe what Eshu said today” or listen to this story that Eshu told.
I went through a difficult time with my family last year and then listening to you going back to your home town for your sister’s funeral, staying in your dad’s basement and putting on jeans — it helped me realize that we are all human and eventually we will all go back to where we come from and we will have to be vigilant of the urges to go “back” to the habits we “wore” when we were living there.
Last Sunday I did a half marathon and you know what I was thinking of when I sat down to put on my Vibrams – I imagined myself standing at the start line and I heard you “Hi there this is Eshu.” I listened to you the whole way. I did get funny looks at people for bursting out laughing at funny things you’d say.
SO…. A HUGE thank you.
Hopefully I can join your Sangha soon – and perhaps one day visit for a Sesshin a nice 7 day intensive, that would be the BEST ever.
Zenwest 2016 AGM
Meet the new board, same as the old board.
Wednesday evening, May 25, the 2016 Annual General Meeting was held at Soshin and Doshu’s.
We looked back at 2015, and ahead at our current opportunities and challenges,and then after the business was concluded, had some informal time to celebrate our vibrant centre and sangha!
Our newly acclaimed board of directors is (same as previous board):
Kozan Nishigaya – Chair
Rev. Soshin McMurchy – Treasurer
Rev. Doshu Rogers – Secretary
The new board has met and confirmed Janine Theobald’s appointment foranother year as Board Advisor.
To round out our active Board, we are seeking another Advisor to share skills and ideas the third Wednesday evening of every month at regular board meetings. The only requirement is you must be a member in good standing for one year. For more information please contact Doshu@zenwest.ca
Thank you all for all your support of our Zen centre; we look forward to another great year of practice together!
XYZen May 2016 Gathering
by Nathalie Jeffrey
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy
I awoke and found that life was duty
I acted, and behold, duty was joy.”
A silence fell upon the group as the words of the poem, read by Seishin, echoed. We had spent the evening enjoying delicious foods and company and were now cracking into ‘The Hidden Lamp’. This is the second time now that the book has served as a guide for us as we come together as marginalized people (women and transgendered people) walking the Zen path together. The book is a compilation of koans, as well as reflections by current female Zen teachers edited by Florence Caplow and Susan Moon.
Earlier in the evening, the conversation floated from joyful congratulations (to Pola for her marriage) to realities of impermanence and moving (again, we will miss you Pola!), to how genius of an invention chipotle salsa really is. We marveled at how Hoyu’s dog Sparky sounds exactly like a chicken, and were happy to find out that Seishin’s pet rat Tony was still holding on to life. As the art was brought out and the food cleared away, we settled into the relaxed, genuine, comradery which makes Zenwest so unique. As Seishin read, we coloured and reflected on the words.
The above poem was included by Nancy Brown Hedgepith in her reflection on the koan ‘The Old Woman of Mount Wutai’. This koan tells of a woman living on the way to Mount Wutai who is constantly asked by pilgrims for the direction to the monasteries. She only answers ‘right straight ahead’. We wondered: is the way really right straight ahead? Or is she giving directions for the relief of their suffering, regardless of the physical direction to Mount Wutai? Which ‘way’ is she pointing to? The book also poses questions for us to ponder as we close the koan and reflection – what is the point of spiritual seeking, and what do you hope to find there?
Coming together as a group to reflect on koans can offer relief and a time for laugher as we embrace the universality of not knowing. Coming together to eat delicious food and share our lives allows us to come to know a different side of our sangha mates. Finally, coming together offers a chance to offer a huge congratulations to Pola as she embarks in a new marriage and a new life in the suburbs of Montreal. We will miss you Pola!
by Elder Hoyu Boulter
Are you looking for a way to go beyond the simple basics of meditation, or how to take your practice deeper?
Are you ready to engage face-to-face with an experienced teacher, and explore how becoming involved with a community that was created to support meditation can inspire and enhance your own practice?
The benefits of a consistent meditation practice are well established – stress reduction, a less cluttered mind, improved focus and awareness, better immune function, more restful sleep, and insight into the habits that are limiting the realization of your true potential.
This course offers a progressive combination of study and practice, individual and group interaction, and personal guidance that will provide a strong foundation to experience the profound change that Zen meditation practice offers.
The Orientation to Zen Buddhist Practice Course is the primary gateway to Zen Training at Zenwest Buddhist Society. The course runs 2 hours on each of four Saturdays.
Course Dates: June 25th and the next 3 Saturdays
Saturday mornings 9:30am – 11:30am
In order to maintain the quality of instruction, course enrollment is limited to 12.
Fees for this four-week course: $249 ($199 for Zenwest Associates)
A deposit of $50 is required to ensure a space upon registration. The balance is payable one week before the first day of the course.
• Four weekly group discussion and meditation sessions with Rev. Doshu and/or Kosen Eshu, Osho
• Meditation cushion (zafu)
• Peer Support Connection
• All online and printable course materials
• Zenwest Chant Book
• Upon completion of the Orientation, all participants are invited to apply for Membership in Zenwest.
• All Members must purchase a black martial arts-style (gi).
Please contact: Seizan Barry Phillips, Registrar (email@example.com) with any questions and to register.
Dead line for registrations: Tuesday, June 14th
Adaptation in Perception
By Kyle Rasmussen
During the month of April, Zenwest Buddhist Society offered members and associates a four week Orientation to Zen course. According to the course syllabus, the course is designed for those who want to cultivate a daily practice of zazen and to increase ones’ awareness of the formal Zendo form. I’ve chosen to spare my readers juicy details of the course in favour of keeping it fresh for prospective students. What follows are perceptual adaptations that unfolded beyond the syllabus defying my preconceived expectations.
Weekly lessons held at the Roseberry Zendo were instructed by Elder Doshu. One of the first things we received from him were new zafus. This changed sitting at home. It turned it into a lavish experience. Prior to owning a zafu, I would sit painfully on a hard yoga block, or on soft pillows that would ruin my posture. The course revolves around the syllabus; however, my most profound developments occurred through everyday activities. Essentially, what I “got” was an opportunity to have a new type of human experience. I was offered refuge and guidance so I had the safety to let go and tune into a deeper sense of expanded awareness exploring what meditation and Zen means to me.
Part of the homework assignment was to sit in zazen meditation, every day, for five minutes. Each consecutive week we were instructed to increase the duration of our sit by an additional five minutes ending with stamina defying ten minute jump to a total of twenty five minutes of zazen by the last week. Experienced practitioners of zazen and sesshin may be chuckling at this feat, but from my neophyte perspective, this dedication to zazen was like learning to swim by jumping in the deep end. And this was done willingly, with no older brother or dad to push you in.
Sitting in zazen every day with an ever increased duration allowed me to feel the relative weight of daily practice. From the easy five minutes to the grueling twenty five minutes, I soon felt the weight zazen had in my daily schedule. In a day of one thousand four hundred and forty minutes what is a mere fifteen minutes? A measly 1.56%. Why then is it so difficult to dedicate a minor amount of time to such a reverent task? The realization came to me that the time wasn’t the barrier. The mind is. Days where I didn’t meditate came about because I was valuing some other human activity higher then zazen. Which is fine and dandy, we all have obligations that must be met. But now, thankful to the Orientation to Zen course, a daily zazen practice has become an obligation.
A Biased Review of Four Seasons Musical Theatre’s
“A Little Mermaid”
By Elder Hoyu Boulter
On the evening of Friday, May 20th around seventeen of us gathered for the opening night of “A Little Mermaid”. We grouped together, sat close and whooped, hollered and clapped when armoured Eshu Oshu with braided beard and trident in hand walked on stage as the powerful and mighty King Triton, father of Ariel. Not only were we there to cheer on our Abbot we were also there to savour the awesome talent of Maggie Martin as Ariel’s best friend, Flounder and the many roled Kigen Martin in the Ensemble.
As is expected of an opening night, there were some technical hiccups, mic dysfunction, missed lighting cues and doubtlessly other small glitchs by the actors. However, the cast and crew seamlessly adjusted and the show went on.
The special effects were clever. I especially enjoyed the use of long, wide pieces of plastic sheeting that were rippled and enhanced by lighting to look like waves as Ariel rose to the ocean surface.
Eshu embodied both the strong ruler and tender hearted father. He displayed a wonderful array of emotions as he spoke and sang his way through his frustration and love with the lovesick teenager, daughter Ariel; a multitude of feelings that only a father could understand. (No corrections here.)
As Flounder, Maggie shone with vocal, physical talent and humour as she and the Mersisters belted out “She’s In Love”. She fluttered her way in and out of scenes with the tide of a changing relationship with her bestie, Ariel. Definitely, a stand-out.
Kigen was everywhere. Wherever the Ensemble set the scene for the continuity of the play, there was Kigen singing and dancing, swabbing the decks and swaying as a tree. Fast costume changes and all character switches all smacked of magic.
I would be remiss in not mentioning Niki, behind the scenes, supporting her family in these months of practice. The huge beaming smile on her face before and after spoke words of how proud she was of her family. And we are too.
No doubt about it, we were there for the Martins but without all the other cast members and those behind the scenes, the show would not have been such a showcase.
Many a Martin; much talent. An unforgettable evening.
by Seishin Ledingham
This past month has been filled with sits in all sorts of places: sits out in Kokizan-ji (our temple in Sooke), Tuesday sits at the Sands Funeral Chapel (we are making “Zen Come Alive” there!), and even our twice monthly Wednesday sit with Reverends Doshu and Soshin at their home on Roseberry Street. We are a pretty busy bunch and thank you to everyone who made all of those sits possible.
In particular I would like to thank the board of Zenwest. This is a hard working group of volunteers who bring their combined skills, passions, and energy to the nuts and bolts of keeping Zenwest running as an incorporated religious society. A big thanks to the board members participating in the running of Zenwest this past year. A huge shout out to:
• Kozan Nishigaya – Chair
• Rev. Soshin McMurchy – Treasurer
• Rev. Doshu – Secretary
• Elder Hoyu Boulter
• Seizan Philips
• Janine Theobald and Kendo Ralfs – board advisors
• Kosen Eshu Osho – the abbot of Zenwest
• Eko Goldberg – administrative assistant and bookkeeper
I really appreciate all of the hard work and dedication of the board members and in many ways they are the unsung heroes of Zenwest. Thank you board!
You are encouraged to share a poem, haiku, meditative moment, or a photo in our monthly Zenwest e-newsletter. Send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org by the 20th of each month. Those wishing to be assigned small reporting duties of sangha events can connect with Hoyu at TommiWrites@gmail.com.